If the river
is a symbol for absolute freedom, then the
raft, host primarily to Huck
but also to the duke
, is a symbol for a limitation one must necessarily impose on one’s freedom if one is not to be overwhelmed: peaceful coexistence. Unlike the sometimes ridiculous and hateful rules of society, the rules of the raft are simple: respect differences and support one another. The raft is a kind of model society in which one can enjoy freedom unlike in society on shore, but at the same time not drown in one’s freedom. Huck says that his happiest days are spent on the raft with Jim. It is significant that the literal destruction of the raft immediately precedes Huck’s fit of conscience as to whether or not he should turn Jim in. Such a consideration, a betrayal, even, threatens to break Huck’s friendship with Jim just as the raft is broken. Significant also is the fact that it is after Huck learns about the insane destructiveness of human conflict from the Grangerford-Shepherdson feud that Jim pops back into Huck’s life, the raft of their peaceful coexistence repaired. This is all of course symbolic for the making, breaking, and repairing of trust and good faith in people despite their differences, and speaks to the fact that it is never too late to try to mend severed relations.